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French Version

Interface : A DiViDed world

Although this headline sounds like a statement on current political affairs, it isn’t! It refers to the state of the DVD industry, as it increasingly seems that the initials D.V.D. are an abbreviation of the word: divided!

This is due to the competing standards that are starting to cause incompatibilities among DVD recording systems, primarily because of different ‘writable’ standards and differences between video and non-video (data) recording.

Currently, there are three standards. There’s DVD-R, which indicates a write-once disc, then there’s DVD-RW, which can be re-written therefore enabling editing of the data, and third is DVD-RAM, which is used for non-video data.

The new DVD-recorder drives for PCs possess an attractive combination of these standards, enabling both video and data recording.

So, where’s the problem ?

Well, for a start, DVD writable discs come in two formats. DVD+R and DVD-R. Hewlett-Packard and Dell drives support the newer +R format, whereas the -R format has been around longer and is now standard in many PCs and it’s the only standard on Apple Macintosh systems. As if we needed more incompatibilities between the Mac and PC worlds!

If it stopped at Apple, there wouldn’t be a real problem. But many manufacturers worldwide are choosing between the plus and minus standards, thereby creating all sorts of potential problems for users!

In our region, with most computer components coming from the Far East where there is no set standard, we could have a mix of -R and +R drives coming through local dealerships.

As for blank discs, research group NPD found 7.5 million blank DVDs were sold last year, of which 50.1 percent were +R discs and 47.5 were -R, or -RW, discs. So, the numbers are quite close.

Adding to the ‘plus/minus’ problem is another issue. It’s a problem related to video versus non-video discs.

Apparently, most ‘old’ DVD players sold with PCs for the past couple of years are unable to playback newly recorded video DVDs. So, if you’ve burnt a copy of a movie or even a home video onto a new DVD-RW disc, chances are that any old DVD player won’t play it.

What this also means is that you could by buying the wrong format of blank DVD-R discs. People who are now buying re-writable DVDs, to archive their data, might one day find that their next computer can’t write to their old disc. So, these are couple of major problems, one related to hardware standards and one related to the blank discs on the market.

Both these problems shouldn’t last too long, though, as major electronics manufacturers like Sony are now ensuring that all their DVD-recordable drives support both +R and -R formats. What’s more, companies like Apple and HP, would had previously selected different formats, are planning to eventually produce drives that can handle both. As for the video/non video problem, that should be solved too by the obsolesce of ‘older’ DVD drives.

So, the problems are well on the way to being solved. In the meantime, though, make sure you know the standards used by your current DVD drive. If you can’t find out, you’ll probably end up chucking it in the trashcan when it fails to read new discs.

Hopefully, by then, a multi-format DVD drive will be cheap enough for you to get out of this format-mess!

The Star

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